Posted by: keepfishing | August 9, 2007

A dichotomy

Utila is an interesting place. It’s the first place I’ve ever been that has two completely seperate culturals living on top of each other.

Everywhere has rich and poor people. However, in most places, there is a sliding scale, a gradual ascent from poor to rich, with communities of people filling the gap. Unlike these places, Utila seems to have no middle class.

It has the Honduran migrants, who are poor (and yet still making the equivalent of a weeks wages in a day here) . Yesterday we visited their part of town to look at mangrove destruction and discovered that they basically live on sh*t, literally. What they do is cut down the mangroves, throw in some rocks to try and cut off the water and drain it, and if they can’t afford rocks, they’ll just thrown in trash. Eventually, when it’s dried enough, they’ll throw up some houses. Yet Utila has no sewage system. It’s the law to have a septic tank on every house (don’t froget to throw your toilet paper in the bin!), but when you’re poor and people have paid you to move to the island to fix a mayoral vote (incidentally the current mayor is being indited for half a million dollars which have gone missing), no body really cares.

So you have them building houses on decomposing rubbish, stagnant water hanging about from the mangroves, raw sewage hanging around in places, and whole communities living on top. They reckon it wont be long before there’s a typhoid or cholorea epidemic, and as these people are the rich people’s maids and coconut collectors, it’ll affect the whole island.

Yet, they’re still making more money than on the mainland, and they have running water 3 or 4 times a wee, which is much more than back home, so they stay. And keep expanding into mangroves (I wont bore you with the environmmental problems this causes!)

On the other side of the coin, you’ve got the local Utilians making money off the tourist dollar, the transient toursits themselves, who come to the island for a few days or a few months or a few years, working in the dive industry, and the property developers, making a killing (Utila just became tax free). Throw into this mix a dollop of sex, drugs, and not a lot of rock and roll (they’re much more into techno here) and you have a quintessential hedonistic culture, living entirely on top of (and largely dependant on) a polar opposite culture and yet are entirely ignorant of it.

Anyway, this has been a largely incoherant ramble. But I think my original point was something about how this is an interesting sociological envorinment. There doesn’t appear to be a middle class. You just have the largely religious, poor, workers, and the amoral upper class, doing what most upper classes do and don’t give a damn.

I want to give a damn, does trying to make a long term difference to the ecology and environmental management count?

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